The spirit of Mardi Gras will be parading through the campus of the University of West Florida Thursday.
“We will parade, rain or shine. The only thing that will stop us is lightning,” said Dr. Kim LeDuff, the Vice President for Academic Engagement and Student Affairs at the University of West Florida. She’s one of the leaders getting ready for the first Mardi Gras parade on the campus of UWF Thursday afternoon.
“I was actually approached by Danny Zimmern of Pensacola Mardi Gras and he told me that for years he’d been thinking it would be great to have a parade on UWF’s campus and to bring some of their krewes to parade and, really, I looked at it as a great opportunity to teach students about an important part of Pensacola’s culture and history.”
The planning for the parade began in October. LeDuff says that from the start the student were all-in.
“They were excited about it. You know, the funny thing is that I think people tend to think about the adult side of Mardi Gras, but growing up anywhere along the Gulf Coast you know that it’s really about family and friends and just a time to get together and celebrate. And so I think the students are really excited that this opportunity was coming to campus. And especially for those who are new to the area. We have students from all around the country, all around the world. Actually, one of the first groups who wanted to participate were our students from Brazil. So we were really excited and I look forward to seeing what they do to participate.”
The parade begins at 5 p.m. from Penn Air Field and will follow a route around the campus that will allow students who have evening classes to get where they need to go. LeDuff says that there will be plenty of places for people to come on campus and enjoy the festivities. “We’re encouraging people to follow the signage and come on to campus. We’ll have plenty of parking available. It may require you to walk a little bit, but that’s okay, it’s really kind of centralized.
"We’re doing a pre-party starting at around 3:30 until parade time, and that’s actually going to take place in front of our recreation center. And so we encourage people to come out. We’ll have some gumbo and some red beans and rice until it runs out. We have a number of offices on campus, student organizations, we’re also really excited to have some of the local elementary and high schools, their bands (and) dance teams that are going to participate. And then, or course, Pensacola Mardi Gras, we have a few of their krewes that are going to come. Some are bringing floats (and) some are actually going to march in the parade.”
And there will be over 200 students from UWF acting as grand marshals of the parade.
“We’re honoring all of our athletes. Obviously people know that we were the Division 2 champs in football, but they may not realize all of the sports (teams at UWF) have done exceptionally well this year. And so we want to celebrate all of our champions and all of our athletes for the hard work that they do. I always say that I think athletes are the hardest-working students because in addition to the rigor of their academics, they also have practice schedules and training schedules and so we want to use this time to celebrate them. So they are going to be the grand marshals.”
The University of West Florida Mardi Gras Parade is 5 p.m. Thursday on the university campus.